Galen Strawson: "What is the Meaning of 'Physical' (On the Silence of Physics)" | Talks at Google
Look. I'm hoping that we can spend most of our time today in discussion, rather. Than with me just talking on my own I've, got a few slides because I might want to pull up some quotations. Not. As the basis for a full talk but I will say a little to begin so. I have two basic points. First, people keep saying that consciousness is a mystery. But. It isn't a matter, is mysterious, but consciousness, isn't. Second. Point is there's. That solutely nothing, in science that gives us any reason, to. Doubt the reality of consciousness. Or to think that it is anything of them it's seems, so. If anybody, doubts whether eliezer of those two claims is true we'll have something to talk about but it's, very difficult with audiences could you just don't know. There's. Increasing tribalism. In this debate tubes people are very entrenched, so. I don't expect to be able to convince anybody, if. They've already been led to think otherwise so. That's. My optimistic, prognostic. But. To begin most of us who, think about consciousness these days are committed, natural ists we, don't think that just means we don't think there's anything supernatural. Or otherwise non natural, most. Of us were also. All. Out physicalists. Or materialist. Studies we think that everything in the universe is wholly physical, and I do myself. I, hope, that. Most of us are also clear on the point that that is color. Experience, let's see if I got some it's. Kind of absurd that I have to produce some, but because. You're having it already but. Taste, experience, and pain experience, and I hope that most of us and I admit I don't know how things stand in this room are all our realists. About color experience taste experience and so on just, like the other 7.5. Billion people, on the planet. We. Should be realists. Because the existence, of conscious experience is, the. Most but. In. Reality. Something's, gone wrong I think the. Most certain you know in general natural. Natural, fact about reality, you, can doubt almost anything, the existence, of the external world but you can't really doubt the fact that you're having conscious experience, right now I know, that, some people. Do. Just that. Can. You hear me. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah. Something's going on and off I don't know why. But. You have to bear with the moment there, are 4 billion thought experiments, that make the point you can doubt the existence of, the external world you might for example be a, so-called brain-in-a-vat. Oh. Being. Fed a seamless, world. World. Simulation, or if some of you will know you might be a wholly, computationally. Realized, subject. Of experience.
In A in. A boström a nick bostrom world, simulation, and so on but you can't doubt that at least it seems to you that you're having experience, right now of seeing me and hearing me talk and for. It to seem to you that you're having experience, just is for you to be having experience the, seeming is made of experience, it is already a form of conscious experience. Well. I'm using the word I'd like to take it that you know what I mean when I say consciousness, or conscious experience, or experience, I mean. The qualitative, what, it is like of. Everyday experience. Seeing. Scarlet, or tasting. Tahini the trouble, is that words like consciousness, have been, foo barred in, men in so many different ways in, recent. Discussion, that they become almost useless. Some. People have done what I like to call they've, reverse, if I'd or lookingglass the, word consciousness. Where. To reverse if I or lookingglass a word is to use it in such, a way that whatever. One means by it it excludes, what it actually means, and, from. Where I stand damn down it has done exactly that he is looking glass the word consciousness. Some. Of you will have come across the word quali there's. Plural qualia, qualia, qualia, it's. Used as a general, name for all the distinctive, what it's like nurses, of experience, sound experience, smell. Experience, taste experience experience, of red versus, experience of green versus. Experience, of purple. See. Pretty. Exciting. Headache. Versus stomachache, nausea. So. On it seems to be kind, of obligatory to mention orgasm, in these, contexts. So there you are I've done my duty. I've. Always avoided using, the word qualia. For. Various complicated, reasons. In philosophical. Debate but I'm going to use it now because I think there's less argument, about what it means what. The argument is about is, where the qualia, exists and although I think that's crazy it, is at least clear I know. That, a few philosophers, deny that Kweli exists and that a. Few psychologists. Do and reports. Have reached me that, is also true of some people in who, work in AI or I t take. Him in the larger sense where this includes people who work at auguste institutions, like Google, well. I think and. I like to say that the denial that qualia exists the. Denial that consciousness exists, where consciousness is understood in the ordinary, sense that denial is the silliest thing that. Has ever been said in the whole history of the human race. In. My experiences, mainly philosophers, who say this silly thing but. I'm worried that the habit is spreading and this, is what we may have to talk about so. Here we are rather Here I am I. Declare. Myself to be a good naturalist, a passionate, naturalist, a full-on no-nonsense, materialist. Who thinks that everything in the universe is physical, who, thinks a conscious experience is, wholly a matter of goings-on. In the brain and, who also thinks, knows for sure that there are qualia. Experiences. Of many different kinds and that's the issue, some. People think that this race is a problem, they. Think that you can't be a, ride, on naturalist. And materialist, and at the same time be an all-out realist. About conscious, experience, and qualia. Fortunately. This isn't so there. Is no conflict. There's. No conflict of any sort, no, stress, no tension. Between being. An all-out materialist. Or naturalist. As hard-nosed. As you like and fully. Acknowledging, the reality, of conscious experience of, qualia, of, experiential. What, it is like the, full on stereo, Technicolor, multimodal, show. The. Idea that these two things materialists. Naturalism, and full unconsciousness, are. Incompatible, so that you can't have both is. Just. A mistake it's. A very large mistake. The. Truth is that you can't really be a naturalist. At all, a real. Naturalist. You. Can't be a remotely realistic, naturalist. And, not acknowledge, the existence of, following consciousness, why not because it's the most certainly, known, and. Obviously, wholly natural thing, there is. So. How did anyone ever get to deny the existence of, consciousness or qualia. That. Is make what I believe to be the, silliest claim that has ever been made in the whole history of human thought. Well. I really don't want to antagonize anyone, but. I don't really see how I can avoid it so I may, as well nail. My colours to the mast and. You, know my the people I'm, opposed. To are philosophers I just don't know how it is out there in the real world. We. Need to anatomize, this mistake, a bit but, it is among other things and, perhaps centrally, a mistake about physics, about. All physical sciences generally is about what physics is and does more. Broadly it's the mistake of thinking, we know more about the nature of the physical world than. We do and actually, that it. It. Is interestingly a recent, mistake, about among, materialists. As, recently, as nineteen fifties, almost, no materialists.
Made It there. Were many many, convinced, materialists. Or, physicalists, if you like back then, how. All out hard-nosed, materialists. With. Noses hard as you like stretching. Back tooth to and a thousand, years, none. Of them were so foolish as to deny the existence of, conscious experience, the. Existence, of the thing whose existence is more certain than the existence of anything else. So. As I keep saying I'm a materialist myself I believe that everything that exists in the universe is wholly physical, so, by the physical, I just mean everything, that exists, in the universe and so of course I think that consciousness is wholly physical. Qualia. I don't. Think that physics, can express, or, descriptively. Characterize, everything. That exists, but thinking that is. No part of being a materialist, that's. Where some people go wrong a. Materialist. Again, is just someone who thinks that everything that exists, is physical, and. No one I. Propose. No one who understands, what physics is thinks. That physics can express or descriptively. Characterize, everything, that exists, this. Is because they know with, for. Example, Stephen Hawking that. Physics and I quote. Him physics. Is just a set of rules and equations. They. Know that physics has, nothing, absolutely. Nothing to. Say to the question, of the ultimate intrinsic. Nature, of the stuff that satisfies. The, rules and equations, over. And above saying that it satisfies, those, rules and equations. They. Know that physics just isn't, in the business of answering the question, and this, is Hawking's. Words again, the, question, what is it that breathes fire into the equations and. Makes a universe, for them to describe. Let. Me try and get to, my they. Know so I want to quote oh here. He is Russell. I'm very. Keen on Russell, he's. Been forgotten recently, but he's coming back. So, they know with Russell that I quote physics. In itself is extremely, abstract, and, reveals, only certain mathematical, characteristics. Of the, material with which it deals it does not tell us anything, as to the intrinsic nature of this, material. At. Moments he says we realize this abstract knows but it doesn't make its. Due impression, because imagination. Reassert. Itself as soon as we're off our guard. Here. Is again matter, quote. Marks around it is only is known only as regard certain very abstract, characteristics. Which. Might by, physics, that is which. Might quite well belong to a manifold, of mental events but might also belong, to a different manifold. It's. Necessary, to emphasize the, extremely. Abstract, character. Of physical knowledge and the fact that physics leaves open all kinds of possibilities as to, the intrinsic character, of the world to which it's equations, apply, and. He says. Interesting. Materialism, has been. Guilty. Unconsciously. And in spite, of explicit. Disavows of, a, confusion, in. Its. Imaginative. Picture, of matter and I think that that's, that. Afflicts. All of us most of us most, of the time are just not able to overcome that, confusion, we think we can't help thinking we know more, about the intrinsic nature of matter than, we do. So. I think, that Russell is right about the nature of physics he's also right that we find it very hard not to slip back into thinking that we know more than, we do about matter, and then, coming. To think that matter can't. Be conscious.
Can't. Give rise to consciousness or, qualia. Okay. Well that's a big mistake that's a fatal mistake, the. Mistake again is to think that we know anything, about matter, or physical, stuff that, generally, that, gives us good reason to think that consciousness. Conscious. Experience, qualia, can't. Holy, physical. One. Point I don't know if it's gonna come up because I can't control. My, oh yeah. Now I've got some rude remarks about philosophers, I'll. Just leave them up there and. Absolutely. True, all of them I'm. Not saying other people are better but. Russell. Again we now realize I'm quoting that, we know nothing of the intrinsic quality of physical phenomena. Except. When they happen to be sensations. And that, therefore there is no reason to be surprised at some our sensations, and there's a very explicit, endorsement. Of the, claim that the qualitative. What. It is like is literally. Physical, physical, stuff, you could say and. This is extremely startling. If you've had a sort of conventional, upbringing. When, you get this when you really get this you're. On the verge in my view of becoming a real naturalist. A real, materialist. What. Are your chances of getting this of, becoming, a real materialist. If. You've had this conventional, upbringing I just, think they're not great if you've already been tempted, to deny consciousness, in any way it depends, on how open-minded, you are and. Most of us aren't I mean I I had fully admit, that I had that kind of rub. Of revelation. 25, years ago when I finally got it and, they're so imprinted, on this picture of matter as this clunky, stuff. That intrinsically. Non conscious I. Mean. Many of us imprint on what we're taught early on we feel the need for closure. The. Psychologists the social psychologists, have a nice term for this we season freeze, we. Cease all of you and then we freeze out further thought about it we, polarize and we tribal eyes with. Great intensity. I'm. Nearly done. But. People, I claim who know something about what physics is now with Eddington. It's. Very old point that physics has nothing, to say about, what, he calls I quote in. 1928. The ungettable. Nature. Of the physical. They. Know this whether whether or not they think we're Schrodinger, for example, and I quote the material, universe, and consciousness I made, out of the same stuff or. That whether they think with Max Planck for example, I quote that, consciousness is fundamental, and matter, is derivative from consciousness I'm not sure I put it that way or. Whether they know with Dubrow, the. Wavefunction, guy I quote, that, consciousness and matter are different aspects, of one and the same thing I quote. Again he. Debray this the aspect of this substance that we examined by scientific, methods is what we call matter the, other aspect, of which we obtain knowledge not, scientifically, but directly, is what we call consciousness and, Lorentz.
With. Whom Einstein, fully agrees says and I quote the, mental and the material, are two sides of the same thing and, the, key here is that physics. In being just a set of rules of equations, doesn't rule that out in any way and since, we know there's consciousness. The, door is now wide open for us to to, reconcile. Ok. This. Mistake has gone very deep in some people and. I. Mean, characteristically. When. You've got used to a certain use of word or a certain way, of thinking you, just can't, really hear the other view and, some, people there's, also a kind of rebellious. Attraction. To deny the existence of, consciousness in one way or another you kind of feel brave, or heroic or, intellectually. Fearless. Um, well. That's fine but I think it's also sad because you're really so lost when. You do that. Ok. Look I'm just going to stop and I'm gonna hope someone has, some objection, or tells me I'm more wrong or something yeah. I. Feel like he talks a lot about certain, specific things, that people take, for granted as part, of their conscious experience, yes and often. Does that makes a strong case that they're not quite true even if it yes so far as to prove a lack of qualia, it's like for example I subjectively, experience my life is continuous, I subjectively. Experience myself as a single entity but, you, can cripple a lot about what it means to be a single entity if there's no point, information, you know kind of comes together and, you can cripple a lot about the continuity, of conscious experience when it shuts off every night, or when you, know it like parts of my brain can't like reset and start over every few minutes, and I feel like that's to, some degree that's the stronger elements, are yeah, yeah. Yeah a lot of things that I'm not sure if I can remember them all already but. I, mean. You're a sick you're a biological. Single thing right so that's when, you said that it's somehow a lose what, you meant with. The. Brain is you know really heavily distributed, so. Like. No, I'm no. Actually, on the issue of that. As, it were that narrative conception of herself being very much a construction, I actually, for deeply, agree with Dennett and I think he's very subtle.
And Interesting about that but. I really. I. Really like to restrict it as much as possible to the really basic issue which is just qualia, because, I would, say that I mean I don't, know whether any of you know but I wrote, a piece last month on, the, New York Review blog. Saying. Say about. The filius claims a denial conscience and then it replied. About. 10 days ago and then I replayed to him. We. Had and I. I, think. I've got gathered. Enough quotations, I think to show that he does he's. Right he's. An extremist, in the sense that he denies the existence of, qualitative character, of the, sort that I'm claiming, that. I know you have when I get up one of those colors and again I want to say something like I shouldn't. Have it's silly in a way that I'm doing this bringing up a color because. I've. Actually got a spray-out, I, was, I'm tempted to kind of spray a certain. Odor. I mean a nice one in. The room and then see that and get you to recognize it and then ask you how you did that but I went, so. Can. We keep to that sure I mean do you think you can give a really. Like precise definition, of like how you are, you are you and any using the same definition for the term qualia, and why can. I, think. We are that's why I mean we're definitely not using we definitely defined consciousness in different ways because he. I mean I'd, like, to try and pull up some quotations he, famously, says look, in his reply to me I could read you some quotations he says I, I. Quote, Dennett I don't deny the existence of court consciousness, of course consciousness. Exists, it just, isn't what most people think it is. But. He also says, things like do, you know what does everyone know what a zombie is in the, in the nodding in, the in the sort of semi technical, philosophical, sense a zombie. Is a. Creature, that is back outwardly, and behaviorally, indistinguishable from. A normal human being but has. No consciousness, in the in what, we think what I think of is the everyday sense and then it at one point says we're, all zombies, that. Is we there, is really, no inner, what it is like there at all for. Him consciousness, is just a functional, term it means you're very you, know you, see the velociraptor, if it comes at you you go through the door in the right kind of way consciousness. Is awareness of your surroundings. Of the thought that imprints, of all a super-duper, robot could have he's I think he's unequivocal. About that so. We, don't we, completely, disagree when, we used the word consciousness I think, he. Then but he'd that's. Why I like the term qualia, because he'd finds it quite carefully, as. The kind of touchy-feely. Real, thing that I mean and I'm sure I believe, you will know what I mean and then he says that doesn't exist that's an illusion, that's his word. So. Are. You willing to go with him there. Yeah. Briefly. Do them do you think that this is related a distinction between being, and. Becoming or static, a dynamic like there's salt and the saltiness, salt. Is sodium, and chloride saltiness. Isn't, a thing, you can put your finger, on I don't, yeah I don't actually think I hadn't already never, occurred to me.
I Do. Want. When. I talk about qualitative. I do. Really want to mean the thing. That's actually live, a current, claw cabal happening right now, to you so, there is a more abstract notion, of you know SAP. Green whatever, that is it's. That's more like thought in US but I really want is. That correspond. Towards, meaning. For example is people could say there's, from. Say 700, nanometer, wavelength, right, then. There's what I'm feeling when I personally, look I, wasn't, thinking of that either of course I mean I agree that if you want to give them as it were a scientific. Definition, of color you're gonna do it in terms of surface. Reflectance, properties, and. Actually, the the, physics of color and reflectance incredibly, got weird and complicated but, I. Wasn't. Thinking that I'm really only talking, about the, the subjective, qualitative, what, it is like that you have and of course it's a fun it's a famous, and familiar thought. Experiment, let me do my let me ask you how, many people as kids wondered. Ever wondered, whether when they looked at something like that someone. Else one, of their friends was having a qualitatively. Different experience. Give. Me some hands yeah okay, oh you're actually when, I asked classes, about this I get about fifty percent I think I got slightly more so. It must be a sort of nerd thing. So. You don't think that that kind of distinction is one of the reasons for this error or how would it how, would it work. Like, for example they're like well I, don't. Think quali exists, because there's. Not some. Atoms. Or something what is it it's somehow I see pasta, so what do you mean by that I see ok ok, ok that's there are so many problems with words all. I mean is. You're. Having a certain experience right now it. And, it is o'clock a ball it's happening in but these during, these seconds. And it, has a certain, qualitative. Character, and that isn't abstract in any way it's, just part of the the. Being of your experience, it's real it's concrete totally. Concrete, so, that's how I would reply and I, would hope that. I don't. Know what the other part might the other person would say at that point but I just mean that I mean the the, real happening, thing. The. Thing that's happening to a baby right. Thank. You okay. Yeah. So. Back, to Dennett, he, was here and I directly. Confronted, him about this oh I. Didn't know that yes, so, I asked him about. Well. I I sort, of led into this but I asked him about pants psychism, oh and, so. His answer was and like you know I, paraphrase. A little bit but he he, said I almost, believe, it except, I want to change the word psyche. To Nifty like. I believe in Pan Nifty ISM every, atom is nifty and so. You know he's sort of demonstrating, that if. We claim that, everything. In the universe has, some quality, like everything. Is conscious, then, there's. No sort of descriptive, power in that statement. So that was his quote. It's. A probably reasonable thing to say but, the thing is I do think that he exemplifies. What, I called a very large mistake, there's, another sentence, in which, I quoted in my reply to him which, is he says. So. First of all there's a argument would say I. You. Don't really see green you just seem to see green and then. He. Has made that move and then someone says but what's seeming, to see green like and the, answer for that is it's just like seeing green so, you you. Can't escape. By, saying it's only a seeming, so, he. Then this is like 25, years ago he then responded, to that by saying I quote, if materialism. Is true there are no real seeming, x' so. So. He, IV. I found I was sure it was too light for what he said about nifty nurse but he has the problem that he thinks that if materialism, is true you cannot, really have. Qualia. And and, that. I say, is the big mistake because, physics, simply. Is, silent. On the, issue of the ultimate, intrinsic, nature of stuff, and. I. Do. I am, sympathetic, to sin psychism I was kinda kind of hoping to leave this out leave it out of this but because, it's I feel like it puts me in a sort of tactical, disadvantage if, I confess that I'm attracted. To pen sight because because everyone thinks well that's just wacky or something, but. Actually it's not new agey I think it's it's actually we're hard nosed material, of them leads you but, hi I'm slightly losing my track. Here but the thing is that if you think that. Materialism. Rules. Out real seeming, Zoar. Well, then you have to deny the existence of, that and I think you. And what I'm saying would like to say to him is you don't have to deny it you've made a mistake about what physics says. And what physics rules out. Is. That clear enough. Yeah. Okay. Hi. Thank you very much um I, wanted to ask, or. Talk a little bit about the relationship between consciousness, and AI I think, that's a big debate and.
My. Understanding of, a. Lot of people's perception, of AI, and, just, whether or not computers. Can be conscious is, it's in part due to this belief, that not. Only can math describe, reality it also has the ability to generate reality, and in, some sense I don't know if I'm using this term. Correctly but I think it's based on a notion of Cartesian dualism where, there's this substrate, of reality. And then, the mind is a mathematical, abstraction on, top of it well, I don't think that's Cartesian, dualism no. In. May. I flesh out the thought sure so, I suppose I'm just wondering if you think there's. At least this. Important. Distinction. Between one, whether. Or not the mind is a mathematical abstraction, on top of reality, and in that case math is the ability to generate first-person. Reality versus. Whether or not the mind, and. Consciousness are one in the same with the substrate of reality, and, if you think that's. I'm. A bit lost um, I think I, take it a maths, in itself math. Is, wholly. An abstract, thing it has, no concrete. Realities. But, you know a conscious, state this. This, is a it's. Not if you like it's not in time. So, whereas. Your. Current conscious experience of green here is. It, concrete, and must. Be something more than merely mathematical, so. Sorry. I guess I just want to draw that today. I've. Heard, this. Line of thought and I mean I know if. Anyone can develop it at all it would be helpful because I. I. Don't the, thing I need a bridge because I don't see that one. Can just say the mind is just mathematics, because mathematics is, abstract, it's like think, of think, of a book that just has you know all the, equations, and, physics. And it. Takes. Theoretically. Speaking that. That's. An abstract structure, which could be realized, by many different sorts of things just as a you, know a computer. Program, could, could. Apply to the sort of a tidal. Flow around some, islands, or to the Panamanian, economy, it doesn't you. See what I mean it needs to it's. Got to be concrete eyes before, so, I think, I agree with you I just wanted, to yeah, I think, a lot of people believe a I can be conscious I think well. What. Do you mean yeah yeah you mean a built thing running. A so. Computers. Are fundamentally, mathematical, abstractions, but, oh yeah this, I'm. Sorry I'm sorry I probably unsympathetic. To your language because I'm a sort of I've, been trained in philosophy I it's. An odd thing to say that they're concrete, objects you can kick them they're. Not mathematical, abstractions, they have programs.
And. Even. Those are fully you know there's. Hardware, so. Can you express. It in some way that I can, so I at, least in, I think, the debate of consciousness, takes many forms depending, on the fields you're in yes in the world of computer science I think there's often a discussion on whether. Or not math. As an entity. Can. Generate, what. We want what we call consciousness and know but I'm doubtful. About oh good the truth of that statement but, I think a lot of people in the world of AI believe. It yeah it's, almost got to flesh, that out because. Matt. You said you taught it but talked about it as an entity well I say it's an abstract, entity, in. A sense of all that mathematical. Truths, existed. Before the universe existed, if it ever did not exist, or would, exist if there wasn't a universe. Where. As consciousness, these are states of these are these, are live or current clock, able concrete. Happenings. So, math abstract. Things can't generate, concrete, things you. Can build things that do things because they run programs. That can be that, have abstract, descriptions. So. You know this, is sort, of philosophical. Quibbling but I think it's really important. Anyway. I'm, glad to hear you're sympathetic. I'm. Sure you've heard of the Mary's, room argument yeah yeah. Non-physical. Information, I was wondering as. Materialists. What here yeah. I've just put in the paper about why. I think it's been a big waste of time but. For. You okay. Which. Way when you convince convinced by the original argument that, Mary. Are. Good that Mary somehow. Is, missing some information yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I will try to it's, very simple, actually. This. Is a thought experiment, published. In 1982, by a guy called Frank, Jackson but actually I've. Done, some research it's, a very old idea I quite. Actually, what. The idea is that it's. Completely, sort, of fantastic. And unrealistic in a typical philosophical. Way Mary is, as lives. Has lived all her life in a black and white room and she, has no color experience. She's. Never she's, got a normal color vision but she's never seen any she's never seen anything red she's never seen anything other than black wait but she's a super scientist, she. Has a complete grasp of physics and neurophysiology. And she. Knows if. She looked at your brain with a sort of super brain scanner and saw. The state he was in she'd be able to say he is seeing red right now and. And. But. She's never. Experienced. Red herself, and then in the story she walks out of the room and Wow she. Sees red for the first time and she learned something, new that's, but, there are a lot of people who've. Pushed back against, that and saying no she hasn't learned anything new she. Knew everything there was to know when she knew the complete physics, and neurophysiological. Story about what was going on in your brain I hope. That you all, agree. With me and him that she did learn something, new but did you want to develop that is that sufficient description, yes. Okay, so. Do. I, just have, I can't. Really defend the other side because I think it's so obvious that she learnt something new. But. You should know I, took. It to mean that there, exists non-physical. Information, and oh. Okay. Now so the issue here is that you. Think that's non-physical. And I say good, yeah and I've been saying everything's physical, right yeah, no well I'm saying it's not physics, this. Is the, people who say that she doesn't learn anything new are precisely the people who think that, it's. Part of their view that physics. Must, give. A full. Characterization. Of everything, and. I think you, know we that is just. Obviously. False and I don't think you'd I don't I'd, like to bet that you won't find many physicists, who think that they. Get it and it was a common place a hundred years ago that you. Know physics, gives this highly, abstract. Characterization. And leaves open, the question of, the, stuff, the. Stuff that concretely, realizes, the abstract, structures. So. That, so. I would. Okay. It it. Turns on how you understand, the word physical, you're, right that it's quite a common understanding, of the physical, the. Word physical, that you'd say she gets, non-physical. Information, but I want to say, thinking. Of it like that is what is the very thing that puts up the barrier that makes it seem there's a terrible problem actually. Color. Experience, is our is itself also a wholly physical.
Phenomenon. But, it's, not covered. By physics so, that would be my own I think we agree. Yeah. No no but it was helpful because you're. Quite right that. People. Might want to say the. As it were the information, that you get just in looking at the green is in some house. Supra, physical, or non-physical but. Then when as soon as you've said that you you're locked, into the old problem, and you're. Gonna have to think and, if you're a tough physically, it you're gonna have to think oh that can't really exist I'm. Trying to say no it's. Alright you can fully believe in this this is also physical, it's just not the kind of thing that physics, talks about, and. That's it's, not. New. Agey, or. Not. Being hard-nosed, enough. To. To. Say that that's. Physical. It's because, no, one who gets what physics does thinks. That physics ought to be able to describe that, thank. You. Hey. So, I. I've. Been thinking, lately about, why. Why. Computer, scientists, in general tend to resist this type of argument, and. Yes. Do that I don't know I wonder, whether. It. Has to do with the fact that the. Purely. Qualitative nature of a color experience like this, is. You. Know completely, independent, of whatever like, mathematical, description, of the three-dimensional color space and its point in that space, and. We're very used to thinking that, physics. And computation, are you, know equivalent. In power and thus computation, is everything, and thus math is everything it's, this thing that we actually have to resist in the other direction with, a lot of discussions, with you, know non, computer scientists, but. Just. I don't know I wonder if you've come up with a good way of. Getting. People to recognize. The fact that any, given, three-dimensional. Space, that describes, human color experience, and this particular, colors point in that space is, completely, independent of the fact that that's the color experience I'm having right now because, there's still this concrete, purely, qualitative, non, describable, only pointable, at reality, in that in, that color experience. Well. I'm. Not sure. You. Said three-dimensional, you meant as it were abstract, state. Space like it's RGB, or HSV or yeah. But it could also be I, mean if it's true that sound, is just a matter of what. Is it Tamara, pitch. What's, the other thing it's. It's also three-dimensional. I think so I mean I think that would make the point that there's, it were the purely structural, description, doesn't even tell you whether the, quality space. Okay. This is this is a node as it were in a state space and.
So Is middle C played on an oboe and, let's imagine that, they're there by, some meta some sort of calculation they're the same space but the, abstract description, hasn't given news II look what the. Stuffy the stuffy bit the qualitative, character. And. You, need that as soon as you move from the abstract description. To anything. Concrete, at all so. Is. It well I put in my challenge, or my wedge right at the beginning of what you said where you said something, you said things like math is everything, all computation is everything I mean I obviously. Don't believe that no I know you don't I, know you don't believe it but, well. I don't know if anyone else wants to defend this the. Oh okay, this. Kind of position Oh someone's jumping up there. Okay. Do you wanna try. Good. Physical. I think a lot, of people are talking about like, reducible, so, like. Is are. These quality uh you're. Saying they are basic, they can't be decomposed into, other. Things that we might be able to figure out or like is, qualia. Is consciousness, reducible. To two, like it's, maybe some very basic things like to something. Like. That kind of thing and like that's good. And. Then, I guess you can also like sort of use that perspective, on Mary in the room where, she. Obviously. Her brain is in a different state where she learns the things about. Like, all the equations of color that goes in one place and then the experience does, change, a different part of your brain right like the memory of seeing green versus. The memory of the equations, are stored completely, differently it's, obviously a completely, different thing but. Like with the information, you can build a machine that will given, the state space you can show. It on the screen and then get that part of your brain of the experience, right I think I'm, not sure what happened there are, you telling me I'm. Saying that. This. Is the the divide, in the room might just be like how, you bring this organized thing not a it's new information there's. A very easy way to transform the. State space into experience is that. Like a projector. You. Know or. You. Can have a speaker, that will play the oboe sound given the description and then you get the experience yes, that's all fine yeah, I. Think, to. Say it's new information is like it's stored in a different place in your brain perhaps. Well. But it's not like new information, you can't isn't it's.
Not So. There's. A kind, of. Associative. Load on the word information, which, makes one think of it as as it was somehow merely. Computational. Or something, I'm using it in a large sense, and in fact we don't even we didn't even use the word information in the description of the case we just said she learned something. New something. She did not know which, is what it is like to see read I'm gonna and I'm gonna stick with that because it. Would you want to challenge that I would. Depending. On what you mean by learn something new I would agree that her brain does something it's never done before I hope you haven't been corrupted, by philosophers. I've. Only read like. Yeah. I, think. She learns a new fact. About. Reality. Which is what. It is like to, see red which he didn't know even though she had the super. Physics, on the super neurophysiology. Yeah, it's. Just here that is irreducible, right. So, and I fully believe. That. Her having the red experience is simply. Neural. Goings on but. When. I say that I don't mean anything like what most people say when they say its near or goings on because they they. Think to say that is to be say something reductive. Is to say it's, nothing, but or it's. Nothing over and above but I'm saying you're. Going zhan are much more interesting, than you thought because near this experience. You have really look at that ears neural, goings-on so, wake. Up to. The extraordinariness. Of matter. Right. That's what that's what the message is matter. This is matter, does this. You. One didn't know that I mean the brain is 70 what. 77. Percent water, I mean it's. 99, percent hydrogen oxygen nitrogen and, carbon I think, these. Things are more interesting, than you thought these. Elements, that, well. I think the reduction question is also fascinating like how how. Does it I don't think well. Well. It's true that is another kind of deep, root, of the, feeling, that consciousness, can't, be physical, so, if we want to think that everything's physical we're gonna have to deny consciousness, in the end a. Lot. Of people a lot of people think that. But. This does lead to pan psychism is actually, inescapable. I'm but. You know I like. To say that's that's. Because it has to be has to be part of the truth so. A lot of people think. That. The. Ultimate little bits let's just say, they're leptons and quarks although, I believe, that leptons and quarks are just theoretical. Posits really there aren't really things like, that we, think for sure well they I can't be in any way conscious. And conscious, this involve being so how did we how. Could your, vivid, well. The Google colors experience. How could that reduce, to the activity, of leptons and quotes. But. You can still get a cat. Yeah.
That's Yeah, that's true, but you see the, idea is that that's. Kind, of easy is. Just assembling, the bits in a certain way whereas consciousness, seems like a leap into a different. Qualitative. Domain. Altogether. I agree that. Suppose. I gave you the choice between, two. Theories one is that the, ultimate little bits are totally, and utterly had. Nothing, nothing, in any way consciousness. Like about them and on, the other view they do and, we, if you're a someone. Who thinks it's all in the brain as I do. Which. Theory, do you prefer the theory whereby, as it, were the Technicolor, of real experience, arises, from, little. Totally, non conscious things in a certain arrangement or that, it arises from things that already somehow, consciousness, involving, I think. If you had if, you have the part of the theory that explains how, that happens, like if you can say what patterns oh yeah. That. Has no extra, basic. Qualia. Is, a simpler. Okay. That's a very common, but I totally respect, that view. Requires. That, you, would have to explain how right. Like without explain. That and that, is known as the explanatory gap and is thought to be uncrossable I'm not. Yeah. Okay I want to say one thing there which is just that, nearly. Everybody thinks, it's kind of wildly. Theoretically, extravagant. To kind of to. Lather consciousness. All over the place they, think that's but, actually, what one of the things you get I hope when you really think about this it's not actually. It's. A it's a prejudice, or an assumption to think that that's more extravagant, than supposing, that the ultimate stuff is non consciousness. Involving, and they're, just on a par. And then. There's one more move that you can make which. Probably. Alienating. People here by revealing. Things that I I, know they, sound new agey but they're not I keep saying that. Which. Now I forgotten what it was oh. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I, was. Wondering if you could just say a little bit more about this, intrinsic. Characteristic. Of matter. Yeah, Russell talked about yeah it's like I think you've called it stuffiness a couple times it's like can we in principle, figure. Out what it is is it like a set of things that are unfalsifiable empirically. Like what are we talking about no I can't. Yeah. And some people would say if I know I think I think we can't and I think as a matter of principle, physics, certainly physics, or all, the sciences that require as it, were Pub. Public accessibility. Of, data and check. Ability, and. Independent. Confirmation. It. Can't. Be done the argument, that, it's there is is simple. And I've already given it in one form which is just, so. It suppose you've got the Superfinal physics, with its with. It's beautiful equations. And. And. And they're, right. Now. You need some stuff you need some stuff to be the thing that of, which they are true you've got to move from the abstract to the. Concrete and. So, the argument that there must be some, intrinsic, nature over. And above as, it were the. Physics, descriptions, of what charges or masses, or it. Is simply that that world, is real. It's. Not just, mathematical structure. So you could say it's like the real this like the realize. Rules. Of physics that have the additional property that they exist if you can call a existence. A first-order predicate or what what oh. So. It's like the into shooting some philosophy I mean no no the. Like. The intrinsic nature is the fact that it, exists. More than that because a lot of people think that numbers exist. So. There. It's. It's. Just you know concrete, stuff that's. You. Cannot, that. Structural descriptions, are true e. Equals. Mc-squared the, inverse square law of gravitation so on there's. Something, out there that makes them true and it itself, cannot, be just structure, it must be something more and but. It is in it is not, something. That we could get at and this, is where people like Russell, and Eddington say the thing I liked the only, clue, we have, as. To the ultimate intrinsic. Nature of stuff is in having conscious experience. So. Eddington. Is someone who says well in, that case why. Just assume that the rest of the stuff isn't in any way anything, to do with consciousness, that's. The that is the theoretically. Extravagant. Move not the other way around it's quite neat. Okay. Professor. So. I'm very sympathetic, to your basic point would you I understand, as, consciousness. Is undeniable, so if there's a problem. With. Physicalism. Or consciousness support with our physical theory or consciousness it's a problem with our physical theory yeah, plus saying that, there isn't a problem there's nothing in physics right so what, I'm confused by is I guess how you use the the, term or the identity physicalist, because it starts to sound a little bit like a catch-all, for everything that, actually exactly is absolutely.
Right And. That's I mean that's a conscious. That's. A decision I mean you're quite right right what do I mean by physical, I just mean everything that's completely real and you might think, I've. Cheated in some way oh that's not helpful to my question, yeah to put a point on it is, is. There any sort of experience. That you can imagine having that would cause you to change that identity. I was, an idealist, this whole time. Yeah. I mean. It's. It's. Really, yeah. I mean maybe this isn't that this is perhaps what I mean some of what I've been saying is more appropriate, in a in a audience, of philosophers, because that. Is exactly, right that I wouldn't well. Wait idealism, that's, a tricky term because. It's. Nothing like, nothing, to do some of you will have heard of Bishop Berkeley, who. Thinks that tables, and chairs are just ideas in our minds and it's nothing, to do with that it's. If you like even wit it says no the ultimate stuff of which everything, is made which, is just kind of it on one view it's just sort of energy, it's just buzzing. Humming, energy, it says the alternator of that stuff which we can't get at. Is. Somehow, already consciousness. Involving, so. That. If you want to extend the word idealism, to cover that then I'm going to agree with you yeah it's a kind of so. It's a kind of you, know it's not a magical, trick but it's certainly playing, with the words I'm going to say. That. The true physicalism, is if you like the kind of idealism and I'm not the first who sent that. Eddington. These. I also have, entertained, it I. Quoted. Schrodinger. And Planck and. Debris. And Lawrence and it's. Yeah. It's. So. And I, but, I think it's valuable to try and take the word physical, just. Being sort of I'm. Saying no you've got to think harder about it, it's not just what physics does is. It more about staying in conversation, with the scientific, community or sort of using. The common, well I mean given. My narrow little concerns, I'm more concerned, with the. Philosophers, and how they talk and I think they're the ones who've gone most wrong, I've, also got a quotation, from my. Local. Nobel. Laureate and Stephen Weinberg back in UT Austin where I come from he says you, know he said I don't know what my fellow physicists, think but I know that, consciousness is real you know he, is a very long way from thinking. That being. Committed to physics. And physical ISM, raises. Any ground. For any kind of doubt about the reality, of consciousness. Does. Your approach to materialism, and, consciousness, say anything about freewill and what. Was the beginning. Does, your approach to materialism and consciousness. Imply, anything about free well does it imply anything I don't, think. So my view I mean certainly, I think whatever views I have about free will are. Completely. Independent, of that position so because I think they're. A priori, that in the sense that means you know that they don't depend on empirical, claims, at all. What. Do you want to develop that at all. Maybe. I'll just ask what can you summarize, your. Do. I have to I want, to take the fifth. I'm. Listen. There's a there's a very strong, natural, notion. Of what freewill is, given. Which I think it's not possible. But. I don't think that's a problem for. Our. Ordinary, everyday practices. Which assume free will and moral responsibility I, also, think, that although, the. Argument, that it's. Not I could even give it to you if do you want it I'll. Give you a really fast version, he goes well. We do what we do because of the way we are okay. Building. All the complications, of circumstance, step. 2. So. To be truly responsible, for what we do we've got to be responsible truly, responsible, for how we are. Because. What we do flows from a yeah but step, 3 you can't be ultimately, responsible for, how you are. Why. Not because, roughly. You'd have to be the cause of yourself, you'd have to be there already to, make yourself the way you are but. Then you'd have been there already and you'd have to take another step so, you get what's called an infinite regress argument. You, could never as it were get back behind yourself in order to create yourself in order to be truly responsible, for, how you are and how you act and if you look at that argument, it is purely. A priori, it's got nothing to do with physics, it doesn't matter whether the determinism. Is true or determinism, is false, thank. You. I, would. Actually want to say one more thing about that which is that although I think that the argument is unanswerable. The. Argument against this very strong notion of free will I also. Think, that there we, cannot, help. Experiencing. Ourselves, as radically, free in action I think you can show why ok. So. I actually have two questions or well one of them was one that was asked earlier and I'm not sure was fully answered in.
A Second but so, you mentioned, that you think that consciousness. So, it sounds like you're saying that maybe consciousness, is an intrinsic property that even, you know like goes down to the level of quarks or whatever and I'm. A little confused as what that means and. You said for example that it. Would be really strange or how much you're strange the word you use but that that if we. Were conscious but we were made up of things that aren't conscious but. Like a television, you, know takes. A signal and and broadcasts an image to people's eyes it's made up of things that individually do not do that good, yep, yeah. This is this is the whole issue of emergence. Where, emergent. Properties, which are broadly. Defined, as they're. Not there at one level and then they are there at another level and thus the favorite. Example of that is liquidity so, an individual, water molecule, isn't liquid but when you put a lock them together you've. Got liquid you've got liquidity, there, are lots obviously, lots of such properties, what. People do is then I, think well that's kosher emergence, that's murder that's emergence, that we, can make. Sense of and understand, the. Idea is and. This is a key issue here you're quite right but. Let me just insert, one thing which is that the. Main things I've been wanting to say about how being a materialist doesn't. Mean you have to be doubtful, about consciousness. That's, independent. Of the pen. Psyches bit that wants to put consciousness, right down at the bottom of things okay. So that, was just an insertion. But. Going back to the issue of emergence. You're. Quite right you get properties. Emerging. When, you put small as it were crudely small, bits together you. Get bigger things which have completely different properties there, but the the ID intuition. Is the there is that. Cases. Like liquidity, are not problematic, but the idea that consciousness. Could. Emerge from the utter radically, utterly and wholly non conscious is, problematic. It's a it's as it were a leap into a different, domain. In, a way in which the other cases, aren't. The. Other yeah, and the truth is that when it's not really. Possible to persist if I the, notion of radical, amoun so it's a very good question. In India there is no you. Know knockdown, argument for, it. So. You're quite right and I mean I've had this objection recently. There's someone saying they. Used the example of heat saying you know you've got these individual, bits. And they don't have it and then you put then you speed them all up and you've got heat and why. Is it why is the, alleged. Emergence. Of consciousness. From the utterly, non conscious worse. Or different and at that point it's. A kind of standoff, and I say I, see. It like it's very intuitive let, me see if I can, yes. I might, be able to get a one, slide here I don't know how much time we have left. Sorry. About this. I'm. Hoping it will come. Yeah. So William James. This. Is from his prints, so, continuity. Doesn't. In, the. Demand for continuity, has over large tracts of science proved itself to possess true prophetic, power we, ought therefore ourselves, sincerely to try every, possible mode, of conceiving the dawn of consciousness, so. That it may not appear equivalent, to the eruption, into the universe of a new nature, non-existent. Until then merely. To call the consciousness nasan twill not serve our turn it's true that the word signifies not, yet quite born and so. Seems to form a sort of bridge between existence. And non entity but this is a verbal quiver the. Fact is that this continuity, comes in if a new nature comes in at all the quantity, of the latter is quite immaterial then, he makes a quite a nice joke the, girl in midshipman, easy could not, excuse the illegitimate of her child by saying it was a very small one and consciousness.
However Small is an illegitimate birth, in any philosophy, that starts without it and yet professes, to explain all facts by continuous, evolution so. That's the that's the intuition an argument. I'm not sure if our entirely, so it is okay is the argument that because consciousness, is, if. Conscious is not a characteristic, of small things that for it to emerge is, impossible, because it would be discontinuous, or yeah. It's, it's just a saying it's just no it's it's just it's an eloquent, expression of. The intuition, and I use that word as a kind of saying, it's not an argument but, it's very compelling, that you know that nowhere. In the whole of Sciences we have it that we have to postulate, radical, conte discontinuities. And it, does look like any passage, from the utterly non conscious to something conscious is, a radical. Leap, so. There's. A strong. Theoretical. Reason. To. Doubt it, it's. Not it's not a knockdown argument, and. That's just a nice expression of it I think yeah I mean the other this guy but I'm just real quick before I I do someone, asked earlier basically a computer, program can be conscious I think I think you got into a discussion about mathematics, at some point it'd be cool if you could return to the question of whether a program, could experience qualia. A program. What. Should I do should I say, something try and say something about that. Is. There another question wait, can I try to add, to the point that this point about sort of. The. I. Don't. Know how to describe this point actually but you you can you. Know you can experiment, with, human brains you can like sever human brains right like the split brain problem, in in. Which case you, know what. Seems to appear is like two independently. Functioning. Consciousnesses. Or this or right. And I think that's an important point that if you can sort of physically, divide an object, and it still like. Has conscious, properties. And. And, I. Mean, I don't know this is subtle like it it, both appears, to be a single being and appears to be two separate beings, because. You. Can do psychological, experiments, showing that that there is no information passing, between the two halves. Of the brain but they're making inferences. Minh. Such, a way that it kind of appears to function like a single person that I think sort of by, that route you have to conclude that that, you. Know consciousness, arises from, small things summing. Into, a. Bigger, conscious. Yeah. I mean I think, we might all agree about that but part. Of the issue here is, whether what, do we think the small thing is alike and. Part. Of what I'm under. Part. Of what I've been saying is simply. That. Well. Yeah. So what the issue. I was just discussing was whether. There. Was a difference between thinking that the small things were themselves utterly non conscious and thinking, that they were already somehow in, consciousness. Involving. And I, was saying there's. No reason, to favor, the. Standard view that they have no sort of consciousness because. It creates this huge theoretical, problem, but. I just agree with everything you've. Said and it, seems to support the. The, general view that consciousness can be wholly physical. So. I, kind. Of just want you to. Articulate. Well. There's two defenses. Of consciousness, I feel like I've noticed. In this talk I want, you to, articulate. The first one and then to maybe. Address like a possible, counter-argument. Or a second the first seems. To be that. Science. Anything. We know about the world is is first perceived. And then like everything, else we know about it even the fact that there's physics. That things are physical that there's a you. Know everything. Else comes, from things. That we've patterns, we've inferred, from.
Data. That we originally perceived, from. Being conscious that's, true but I didn't actually use that yeah okay, I. Mean that feels very defensible, and it seems like you, you. Accept that as a good, reason to take it as like a axiom. Of, philosophy. Um the. Second, one seems, unrelated. Entirely. But it's the fact, of the irreducibility, of consciousness. Which. This addresses, to and I. Wonder if you. Could explain that as kind. Of a definitional, problem. Consciousness. Is as. We understand, it just like the full feed of perceptual. Information. Being. Received at any given moment and. That. Is by, definition almost, like not, reducible. We would, be perfectly happy to accept, like the. Definition of, a bottle of gas as, the. Average velocity of, all the atoms, in it you know we wouldn't be like oh you're not really describing, that accurately, because you haven't described, every. Atom and it's velocity and, like its components, or particles. But, we would never accept a, similar. Abstract. Description. Of our own consciousness because, it is the full feed mm-hmm, yeah. I mean I actually wasn't, I, wasn't. Thinking of that particular issue that as, it were not. Even the sort, of the divine, omniscient. Description, of the little bits would would, as it were some to constitute, a description. Of the. The. Experiential, field, I wasn't. Actually thinking at that point. I'm. Not sure I think that might be true of lots of cases of. Emergency, including, ones that. As. I like to say kosher, ones so that they, don't, create. A problem so I'm. Not. Sure that I. Just. Just like getting it's. Not I just mean ordinary, standard. Emergence, that's, not. Puzzling. In any way like when you get liquidity, when you put lots, of individual, water molecules together. Data they are not liquid individually. But they the, quiddity now emerges. As we. So, I wasn't, actually thinking what you said the there's. At the point that as. It were the the, perfect description, of. Full-on. Total, experiential, filled human, experience. Could. Never be, extracted. From the. Super description, of all the little bits I would. Think I. Don't. See that as the, main problem in fact now I don't. Know what more to say except that I don't, really feel that I'm defending. Consciousness. I'm just trying what I'm really trying to do is saying. People. Who are very impressed, by. The. Powers of say. Computers, or. Or. By the brilliant. Successes, of physics many, of them have been led to think that there's a problem about being a. Good. Old-fashioned. Realist. About consciousness I'm just saying to say no there isn't, there's. No problem. It's a mistake, to think that. That. These that computational. Science or physics or anything. Raises. Any. Doubt, about the reality, of consciousness. But, would you say that it's verifiable. Or is it just axiomatic. Cut. The existence of consciousness well. Here I like to, and. I like to a, friend. Of mine called Ned blocker who's at NYU, some. Of you may know this he he quotes, he. Quotes Louis Armstrong, at this point when Louis Armstrong was asked what jazz was and he said if you gotta ask you ain't never gonna know and, that's, exactly what I would say to someone who seems, to question the existence of consciousness if you've got to ask you ain't never gonna know. There's. Another and, I would just say to each of us you, know what it's like from your own country from your own case, it. Made well it may possibly, be that when you get someone, in this audience looks. At this thing which we all agree is green. That. If I could look through their eyes I might see what I would call red it doesn't matter, you. Know what conscious is from your own own, case I would say, and if, someone persisted, and they were close enough to me and he might give them a kick and.
Say That there's an example for you it's. Just so basic, it upsets me that philosophers. Have seriously. Questioned, the existence of, this thing and. That, enough so what I'm trying to say is there's no good reason to do so. All. Right thanks again everyone. For coming and so. I think this speaker okay. You.